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01 Myles Frost as Michael Jackson in the original Broadway production of MJ_photo by Matthew Murphy
Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Matthew Murphy

The best new London theatre openings in March

From the massive Michael Jackson musical to the return of Gingerline, there’s something for everyone in Theatreland this month

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski

London theatre in March mixes a handful of absolutely enormous shows – Michael Jackson opus ‘MJ the Musical’ is the biggest thing to open in the West End for years – with a couple of quieter weeks in the middle defined by some interesting immersive work and lower-key new writing. Whether you want to go big or small, there should be something for everyone.

Nye, National Theatre, 2024
Photo: Rachel Louise Brown

1. Nye

Of course, Michael Sheen was born to play NHS founder Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan. And of course, it would be a treat even if the National Theatre’s big new play was simply a soggy hagiography. But let’s not conflate Sheen’s lovable public persona with safe stage work: Tim Price’s ‘Nye’ sounds wild, an ‘epic Welsh fantasia’ in which a dying Bevan looks back upon his eventful life.

National Theatre, until May 11

01 Myles Frost as Michael Jackson in the original Broadway production of MJ_photo by Matthew Murphy
Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Matthew Murphy

2. MJ the Musical

US reviews were mixed and the subject remains nothing if not controversial. But there’s simply no denying that Michael Jackson’s back catalogue – and legacy as a live performer and dancer – is second to none. While London did play host to scrappy revue ‘Thriller – Live’ for a long time, this humungous Broadway smash – with a script by the great Lynn Nottage – is the real deal, and the biggest new musical opening London has seen since ‘Frozen’.

Prince Edward Theatre, Mar 6-Sep 14. Buy tickets here.

Opening Night, Gielgud Theatre, Sheridan Smith, 2024
Photo: Matt Crockett

3. Opening Night

Next to the gargantuan ‘MJ’, March’s other big new musical looks like one heck of a wildcard, being auteur director Ivo van Hove’s adaptation of John Cassavetes’s all-time classic 1977 drama about a disintegrating actress, with songs by US chamber pop star and composer Rufus Wainwright. A leftfield proposition, but ‘Opening Night’ will star beloved actress Sheridan Smith as Myrtle Gordon, a star struggling with alcoholism and aging. To say it’s an intriguing mix would be an understatement.

Gielgud Theatre, Mar 6-Jul 27. Buy tickets here.

The Grand Expedition, Gingerline
Photo: Peter Chamberlain

4. Gingerline: The Grand Expedition – The Incredible Edible Journey

Immersive dining pioneers Gingerline seemed to disappear off the map after dabbling with a bit of home delivery stuff during the pandemic. As it turns out, they’d decamped to Asia for a few years and just didn’t really tell anyone back home about it. But finally they return with the first full-scale Gingerline show in aeons: a spin on previous outing ‘The Grand Expedition’ that sees you embark upon a Phileas Fogg-style journey around the world, sampling various wild cuisines along the way.

The Launchpad, Dalston, until May 12.

Faith Healer, Lyric Hammersmith, 2024
Photo: Sebastian Nevols

5. Faith Healer

Brian Friel’s 1979 classic is always worthy of revival: the Old Vic did a Michael Sheen-starring production a few years back, though it was during the pandemic and live audiences weren’t permitted. No such problem here, though: Declan Conlon will star as charismatic ‘healer’ The Fantastic Frank Hardy, making his way through the wilds of Ireland in the fractious company of his wife and manager.

Lyric Hammersmith, Mar 14-Apr 13. Buy tickets here

Harry Clarke, Billy Crudup, 2024
Photo: ATG

6. Harry Clarke

Billy Crudup is a well-liked Hollywood supporting actor who rarely gets his moment in the spotlight. But that changes this month as he makes his UK theatre debut in David Cale’s one-man-thriller about a conman who latches onto a wealthy New York family – in which Crudup plays all 19 roles.

Ambassadors Theatre, Mar 9-May 11. Buy tickets here

Figs in Wigs, Big Finish, 2024
Photo: Kate Bones

7. Figs in Wigs: Big Finish

London didn’t get a very long run of performance art mischief makers Figs In Wigs’s by all accounts very amusing Louisa May Alcott tribute/‘tribute’ ‘Little Wimmin’. So what a delight Battersea Arts Centre has programmed a fuller run for the latest from the stylish oddballs. ‘Big Finish’ is a show about the collapse of the theatre industry and the end of the world that they describe as ‘a collective scream into the void - with jokes’.

Battersea Arts Centre, Mar 14-27.

Giles Terera, 2024
Photo: Menier Chocolate Factory

8. Power of Sail

This campus thriller by playwright Paul Grellong follows Charles, a Harvard professor who causes a scandal when he invites a notorious white supremacist to his annual symposium. Charles believes his guest’s abhorrent beliefs are best confronted publicly: Charles’s colleagues and students very much disagree. Former Globe boss Dominic Dromgoole directs a cast that includes the ever-wonderful Giles Terera (pictured).

Menier Chocolate Factory, Mar 20-May 12.

Priscilla the Party, HERE at Outernet, 2024
Photo: Matt Crockett

9. Priscilla the Party

Well this could go either way but it sounds fun: ‘Priscilla the Party’ is to drag-tastic musical ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ what ‘Mamma Mia the Party!’ is to ‘Mamma Mia!’; that is to say it’s kind of a condensed version of the original combined with a whacking great party with booze and food. Whether it’s up with the slick ABBA spin-off quality-wise is TBC, but hard to imagine it won’t be a laugh.

HERE at Outernet, Mar 3-Sep 29.

Bear Snores On, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 2024
Photo: Open Air Theatre

10. Bear Snores On

In its 92-year history, the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has never opened up in March before: but there’s a first time for everything. ‘Bear Snores On’ is an intriguing new kids’ play based on Karma Wilson’s book. Alongside its unusual location – it’ll start on the OAT lawn before moving into the bear’s ‘cave’ – further intrigue is added by the show being the work of big-name actor Cush Jumbo. The show – which concerns a cold mouse shacking up in a sleeping bear’s cave – is aimed at kids aged four and above. 

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Mar 23-Apr 21.

The best new London theatre shows to book for in 2024.

Kit Harington will star in Jeremy O Harris’s incendiary ‘Slave Play’.

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